Marketplace is working, says Sebelius, shortly before it crashes
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS, writes:
To give Americans a better way to shop for health coverage, the federal government and states recently launched Health Insurance Marketplaces. Yesterday, we announced a clear path forward so that by the end of November, HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of consumers. But you probably haven’t heard about the Data Services Hub which serves as a critical resource for the Marketplaces, both state and federal. The Hub is a tool to help you and your family get affordable, quality health care.
What Is the Hub?
The Hub is a routing tool – an information sharing tool. It is an efficient and secure way to rapidly verify the information submitted by consumers seeking a determination of what coverage options and financial assistance are available to them.
You see, one of the great things about the new Marketplaces, which are getting better every day, is that through them, you can apply for health coverage, and check to see if you and your family may qualify for lower premiums, or for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). But that one-stop shopping is possible only if information can be shared quickly, accurately, and securely.
The Hub provides one connection to the common federal data sources needed to verify consumer application information for income, citizenship, immigration status, access to minimum essential coverage, etc.
What the Hub Is Not
It’s important to understand that the Hub is not a database. It doesn’t retain or store information. And the Hub queries only those systems necessary to determine your eligibility for what you apply for. It is a model of efficiency and security because it eliminates the need for each Marketplace, state Medicaid agency, and CHIP agency to set up separate data connections to each of the systems that are in place to help you and your family.
How Many People Has It Helped?
As of yesterday, nearly 700,000 Americans had completed an application through the Marketplaces – more than half of them through the federal Marketplace. This does not count applications directly to Medicaid and CHIP agencies that also can use the Hub.
A few more stats of note:
- State-based Marketplaces and the Federal Marketplace are getting real time and accurate eligibility determinations from the Data Services Hub in less than 1.2 seconds.
- The Social Security Administration has reported 4.2 million transactions involving individuals or households who have elected to establish an account. The current overall verification rate for Social Security numbers is 96%. With respect to those we’re unable to verify, consumers are notified online with instructions for resolving their verification issues. The highest numbers of transactions continues to involve individuals and households in the following states: Pennsylvania (323,000), New York (310,000), California (290,000), West Virginia (240,000), and Washington (135,000).
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has received and responded to more than 1.3 million requests for historical household income and family size tax data from the hub. The number of requests received does not reflect the number of people about whom the requests were made (i.e., a single request can involve everyone in a household). Thus, the number of individuals about whom the requests were made could be higher than 1.3 million. The IRS has provided data responses electronically via the hub in “near-real” time (average actual response time is 0.37 seconds).
- The IRS also offers an advance premium tax credit computation service, which is optional for state Marketplaces. If a Marketplace chooses to use the IRS service, it sends a few data points, without identifying the applicant, and the IRS provides a math result in response. More than 330,000 requests have been received for the computation service with an average actual response time of 0.21 seconds.
States are reporting that they are satisfied with the hub’s performance. The technology program manager for Kentucky’s Marketplace said recently that 92% of applicants have been successfully verified through the hub: “We’re overjoyed with that 92 percent. I don’t know that we thought it would be that high of a success rate.” Connecticut has also reported few problems with the hub.
The Hub is a 21st century way to assess eligibility for coverage and premium assistance, and it’s working for residents of all 50 states and DC. We’ll continue to monitor and optimize its performance. And we won’t stop working 24/7 until the doors of HealthCare.gov are wide open. If you need health coverage, it’s our mission to be sure these tools are here for you, running smoothly. The Hub is on the job, and so are we.
That the site does not store PII is a good thing, in this blogger’s opinion. But it would be helpful to know more about prevention of MITM attacks or how exchanges are protecting against insider threats.